By Terra Collier, For The Miami Student
‘The Last Cigarette’
Small cast, deep meaning
The scene is set: a small table, two chairs, wine glasses. Dimly lit, the atmosphere thickens like the puff-blown smoke of the bar in which the two leading, and only, actors will soon immerse themselves.
The Last Cigarette, set to premiere Sept. 30, is a one-act play with just two characters.
Senior Kaela Smith, student director, begins rehearsal.
“Alright, let’s shake it off,” she says, and presses play on Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.”
Senior Karly Danos and first-year Rylan Hixson proceed to sing and dance around the room. Karly spins in her dress and heels, Rylan running in circles around her. Sophomore Molly Laska, stage manager, hums along softly as she types on her laptop.
“Did you shake the rest of the world off?” Kaela asks.
Karly and Rylan nod and position themselves on stage. They stand at opposite ends of the table. The room goes silent.
“I want to know how you learned to sit like a queen,” Rylan says, aged by 20 years as he immediately gets into character. “I want to know how you attained the language of fallen angels. I want to know why it took me so long to meet you when I’ve known you all my life. I want to know how any man could let you go.”
Karly giggles. The scene continues.
“We put more individual attention on each of the actors,” Kaela says. “But, there’s also a lot more pressure than with a larger ensemble.”
It requires a lot of stamina to be on stage for nearly an hour.
“They’re essentially carrying 25 minutes of the show each,” Kaela says.
Along with endurance, they are responsible for developing the characters quickly.
“In a two act play, there is a lot more time to really introduce the characters,” Kaela says. “In this piece, you have to know the characters immediately.”
Karly and Rylan, bearing the burden, also play characters much older than themselves.
“They have to act and move so differently from who they are at this stage in their lives,” Molly says. “But they’ve really taken that in stride.”
At a break in rehearsal, a discussion breaks out about the intense scene they just rehearsed. Kaela gives the actors advice, then has them walk around the table three times to mentally reset.
“Just let it go, let everything go,” she says, recurring advice throughout the rehearsal.
Karly and Rylan sit outside the studio between scenes for a short break. This production is different for them, in terms of their characters and the amount of stage time.
“A lack of breadth allows for much more depth,” Karly says. “However, there are a lot more challenges to have that depth. We have to tell the story and carry it by ourselves.”
Rylan especially feels that he’s developed as an actor because of ‘The Last Cigarette.’
“I have learned more than I have in any other show,” he says. “They want to master everything you’re doing and refine every single thing about you. Every moment is defined.”
Despite the challenges of commanding this production on their own, these two actors can promise one thing.
“The audience will be invited more intimately,” Karly says. “They will be more attached to us.”
Rylan nods in agreement.
We return to the studio. I take my seat at stage left as they resume.